The Impact of the New Deal for Minorities in the United States
By the early 20th century, American neighborhoods were highly segregated along racial lines, contrary to promises embodied in the post-Civil War constitutional amendments ending slavery and establishing equal rights. Segregation was so far advanced by 1930 that neighborhoods in the average U.S. metropolitan area could not have achieved a random distribution of African Americans and whites unless fully 65 percent of blacks relocated, according to studies of census data by modern demographers.
However, historians continue to debate the significance and legacy of the New Deal. William Leuchtenburg, a foremost historian of the era who is considered Roosevelt’s “sympathetic critic,” called the New Deal a “halfway revolution.” He argued that the New Deal did not go far enough in its social or economic reforms because Roosevelt faced too much opposition and was too constrained by political factors to truly achieve a “full” revolution. Consequently, the New Deal was a series of short-term economic initiatives that lacked the long-term vision or planning that was necessary for truly revolutionary changes. Other historians assess the legacy of the New Deal depending on their own political stand. Conservatives argued that the New Deal limited big business (and thus economic activities) and, in practice, meant socialism. New Left historians in the 1960s criticized Roosevelt and the New Deal for not attacking capitalism more vigorously and not helping African Americans achieve equality. They emphasized the absence of a philosophy of reform to explain the failure of New Dealers to attack fundamental social problems. They also detected a remoteness from the people and indifference to participatory democracy and emphasized conflict and exploitation during the era. Regardless of political views, however, historians generally agree that the United States battled the consequences of the Great Depression not thanks to the New Deal and its relief and reform programs, but thanks to the growth that resulted from the demands of World War II. New Deal relief programs are generally regarded as a mixed success in ending the nation’s economic problems on a macroeconomic level. Although fundamental economic indicators may have remained depressed, the programs were very popular among ordinary Americans. They improved the life of many citizens through providing jobs for the unemployed, legal protection for labor unions and some non-unionized industrial workers, modern utilities for rural America (e.g., electricity), living wages for the working poor, and price stability for farmers. However, the same programs disproportionately benefited white Americans and particularly white males. Economic progress for minorities, especially African Americans and many working class women, was hindered by discrimination, which the Roosevelt administration rarely battled and often endorsed.
The great depression affected America in such a way that one-third of the urban population was left poor. To address this problem, Roosevelt came up with the Federal Emergency Administration (FERA), an institution created under the Federal Emergency Relief Act of March 1933, to offer relief support through providing grants to projects targeted towards job creation as well as provision of relief items (Harrell and Gaustad 890). The grants were given to state-owned projects, which could then use the funds to provide food and employment to the poor in their respective states. For example, FERA established the Civil Works of Administration (CWA) to create employment through the construction of roads, dams, bridges, schools, airports, and hospitals, among others (Colasanti and Ference par. 3). FERA also supported projects focusing on the production of consumer goods, thereby creating jobs and ensuring that Americans had access to necessities. This approach solved two problems, i.e., unemployment and development of the country. The dams constructed did not only take care of flooding but also provided water for irrigation and electricity. South Americans were the worst hit by famine, hence considered were the first to be resettled and supplied with electricity and good roads. Apart from the Civil Works of Administration, Roosevelt also established the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) to provide jobs through massive land reclamation and conservation of natural resources (Berkin 630). Workers under the Civilian Conservation Corps planted trees, controlled floods, and reclaimed areas in areas where there was massive soil erosion. Roosevelt’s focus under the Civilian Conservation Corps was in the agricultural sector in Federal lands because he believed that the economy would only regain its lost glory if the agricultural sector was revamped. This approach did not only provide employment to the rural poor but also conserved natural resources and ensured food availability. The results of the relief efforts became clear by the end of 1933 due to the use of the right techniques and tools in agriculture and development of the infrastructure.
Finally, as to the New Deal, I believe that it has been a failure as it has protected the trusts more than the American people. Today, the poor are poorer, and the trusts are richer. Another reason: this is a county that is controlled by the trusts. When one stands on the street, and closes his eyes for a moment, and then opens them and looks; everything, absolutely all that one sees is made by the trusts. The automobile that passes by, the street car, the trucks, everything that one wears: shoes, clothes, ets. When one enters a restaurant, he sees the plates, the tables, the spoons, all is made by the trusts. 95% of what one eats is controlled by the trusts. The trusts for more than 200 years have been controlling all the industries, and killing the small business men.
Berkin, Carol. Making America: A History of the United States Since 1865. Vol. 2 2011. New York: Cengage Learning. Print.
Colasanti, Kas and Ference, Emily. The Great Depression: The New Deal and the 3 R’s. Web.
Harrell, David. Edwin and Gaustad, Edwin. Unto a Good Land: A History of the American People. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans publishing, 2005. Print.